FCC Strengthens Consumer Protections While Protecting Provider to Patient Text Messaging
The FCC announced it has adopted a proposal to protect consumers against unwanted calls and texts while simultaneously specifying exemptions for health care communications. Thanks to some exemptions this can be seen as a big win for the healthcare industry as a whole as it works to re-invent itself with the technologies available today.
For everyone who has received those obnoxious telemarketing robo calls at dinner time or even worse, harassing phone calls from those bogus debt collection scammers, this ruling will tighten protections and cut down on the illegal callers and texters. Many industries, however, see this ruling as casting a burden on their ability to communicate with their customers. Those companies who petitioned the FCC for allowances but found their requests were limited or declined.
However, the good news for the healthcare industry is that certain exemptions give hospitals and providers the means to comfortably increase their patient and family communication by providing important guidance on what messaging can and can't be done. This means that the investments in communication that have already been made to improve patient experience with more patient engagement have not been in vain. The key takeaway for the healthcare entity is that they do have a responsibility and must ensure that their staff and their vendors are following these guidelines to the letter.
More information is forthcoming but the highlights from the announcement listed below explain the how the healthcare industry is exempt. These specific opportunities for patient and family communication are exempt from having to obtain prior written consent.
- appointment reminders
- reminders of important medication refills
- other health care updates and related messages
While these exemptions clearly protect the consumer without placing undue burden on the hospitals and providers, there are compliance tasks that the healthcare entity must do to ensure their calls are exempt.
Here are the 3 things that healthcare providers and hospitals should do to ensure they are compliant with the FCC ruling:
Step 1: Verify the phone numbers with every visit
By default the patient initially opts in just by giving the provider their phone number, however, there is only one free pass if that number becomes obsolete – If the patient should change their mind or if a phone number has been reassigned to someone else (lost phone, carrier change), all companies must stop calling the number after one errant call. The only way to ensure compliance is to have a method to re-certify accuracy
Step 2: Have tools and processes in place for ensuring that the scripting of the message is compliant and the execution is consistent
-Know your content and its purpose - marketing or debt collection calls or texts are not allowed under these limited and very specific exemptions. For those the patient must opt in first. A commercial program or framework can automate this process.
Step 3: Provide multiple methods for recipients to Opt Out at anytime
-Patients should be able to easily opt in to communication that is important to their well being and opt out of marketing messaging if they wish at any time
The clear beneficiaries of this ruling are the consumers, who clearly needed protection, but also are the patients and healthcare providers. Having a clear strategy for patient and family engagement should include having tools that assist with keeping the healthcare entity compliant just as they do with HIPAA. Managing content and ensuring compliance for both staff and 3rd party vendors should not be left to chance.
MyCareText can help you to quickly design and implement a plan for engaging patients and improving patient experience via a targeted abd reliable stream of communication of appointment reminders, prescription reminders, status updates, actionable information, as well as a channel for patient feedback. Achieve measurable results as soon as tomorrow!
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